June 14, 2017 / 7:20 PM / a month ago

Freeport, China Moly agree to end talks on cobalt assets

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Excavators and drillers at work in an open pit at Tenke Fungurume, a copper and cobalt mine 110 km (68 miles) northwest of Lubumbashi in Congo's copper-producing south, January 29, 2013.Jonny Hogg

TORONTO (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX.N), the world's biggest publicly traded copper miner, and China Molybdenum Co Ltd (CMOC) (603993.SS) have agreed to terminate discussions on CMOC's acquisition of Freeport's cobalt assets, Freeport said on Wednesday.

China Moly had an exclusive right to negotiate for the assets, which includes the Kokkola Cobalt Refinery in Finland and the Kisanfu exploration project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but that exclusivity period expired Feb. 28, said a Freeport spokesman.

In May, China Moly agreed to pay $2.65 billion for Freeport's stake in the Tenke Fungurume mine in the southern Congolese copper belt. One of the world's largest copper deposits, it has been producing since 2009.

Phoenix-based Freeport sold its 70 percent stake in TF Holdings Ltd, a Bermuda holding company that indirectly owns an 80 percent interest in Tenke Fungurume Mining SA, as part of a push to cut its bloated debt load.

"Freeport Cobalt remains a strong, viable business with a long‐term cobalt supply agreement with Tenke Fungurume of well over 10 years, providing for a comprehensive mine‐to‐market solution for cobalt products," said Freeport spokesman Eric Kinneberg.

He declined to comment on whether Freeport has been approached by other parties interested in the cobalt assets, or whether it is currently in any talks.

Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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